John Fithian, president & CEO of NATO (National Association of Theater Owners), gave his annual presentation about the state of the film industry at CinemaCon on Tuesday, focusing on the growth of the industry, and how globalization can enhance the business.
Fithian's remarks included the statistics from the Motion Picture Association of America's annual report, which was released March 22.
The study found that while worldwide revenue hit an all-time high of $38.6 billion in 2016, international revenue of $27.2 billion was static for the first time in years. That put year-over-year global growth at 1 percent, compared to an uptick 5 percent from 2014 to 2015. The slight gain of 1 percent was thanks to North America, where was revenue was up 2 percent at a record $11.4 billion.
"In the end, 2016 proved to be a much better year than most predicted," said Fithian.
Fithian added that despite all the talk about streaming services disrupting the business, the theater-going business had not been hit as badly as it's been described.
"There has been disruption in this industry, just not in the movie theater industry," he said. He pointed out that the last 15 years, domestic movie theaters have seen income increase by 40.2 percent.
Fithian added that NATO is especially focusing on how the business benefits from a global view. "Open and diverse societies drive movie attendance," he said.
The study found a more diverse audience in the U.S. and a surge in moviegoing among millennials. The number of frequent African-American moviegoers jumped 47 percent from 3.8 million in 2015 to 5.6 million in 2016, the highest number in recent memory.
At a press conference after the presentation, Fithian was asked if President Donald Trump was a particular concern for the business.
"There weren't any particular politicians in that speech. .. we're talking about a global world where there is a trend in many territories for protective policies," said Fithian. "Free trade is really very good for our business, and it really always has been… This is a comment about economics in the world in general."
"Immigration is good for our business, free trade is good for our business," he said. "The diversity of people going to our movie in the United States was one of the most encouraging parts of our data."
Dave Hollis, exec vp, theatrical distribution at Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, also spoke on attendance in theaters. "We all believe deeply that films - the ones that we make - should be seen in a theater," he said.
Hollis also talked about how alternative viewing options such as streaming services have created new competition for theater owners, especially with millennials. He pointed out that now on Twitter, there are 400,000 tweets per minute. "Albeit most of that is from our president," he joked.
This past year was the first year that the studio released films in all five of its properties - Disney live-action, Disney animation, Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm, including the top grossing film of the year, Captain America: Civil War.
Hollis introduced a montage of the top 15 films of the year, which for the first time included an international film, the Mandarin-language The Mermaid from China, which has earned north of $550 million worldwide.